Maddy Nutt diary: Inside the preparation for a 360km gravel race

From her bike set-up to fuelling strategy, Ribble Collective rider Maddy Nutt explains how she is getting ready for one of the toughest gravel events in Europe, the Traka 360

This article was produced in association with Ribble and Panaracer

After finishing in fifth place at the Traka last year, Maddy Nutt has unfinished business with the tough one-day gravel event in Girona. On the 360-kilometre route that traverses some of the most challenging off-road terrain around Catalonia, anything can go wrong, so preparation is key to ensuring that each rider has the best chance possible of making it to the finish in one piece.

Last year’s third place in the prestigious Gravel Earth Series, as well as a win in the Dirty Reiver a few weeks ago, has given Maddy confidence that she’s in with a shot at a good result in Spain. However, the vomiting and dehydration she experienced in last year’s edition of the Traka has also meant that big changes have had to be made to make sure the same doesn't happen in 2024.

In her first of three diary entries around the Traka, Maddy explains what she’s learnt since last year and how she’s going to implement it, from training, to bike set-up, to fuelling strategies.

I’m currently out in Girona and I’ve been here a couple of times this year, mainly because this is the best place for training on gravel. There are so many different options and a really good variety, as well as a nice community and scene. Last time I came, I bike-packed the Traka route because a lot of it is quite far from Girona, so it would be hard to do a normal ride and see the entire 360 kilometres.

Now I've probably seen the entire route and it's way less technical and hilly than last year. It’s still going to be really hard, but they have cut the climbing almost in half which is going to make it a lot faster. They’ve also taken out the really technical singletrack and there’s a lot more tarmac – it’s on road for the first 20 kilometres. I think it’s going to be more similar to Unbound Gravel as people will be able to get in quite big groups and go quite fast compared to last year which was a game of survival.


Dirty Reiver last weekend has given me a massive confidence boost about my form and fitness leading into the Traka. I’m confident but I’m also aware that the depth of the field has increased hugely. Rather than it just being a handful of really strong girls racing for the front few positions, there’s now a number of people in contention. It’s going to be interesting to see how well people can translate speed into endurance, as 360km is obviously a lot longer than a lot of the gravel races we do.

I think everyone seems to have different approaches to training for a 360km race. Some people have commented that I’m doing way too much volume, but that’s how I get fit and I really enjoy it. Every two weeks or so, I do a really long ride on my own for eight or nine hours – the main rule is that I'm not allowed to stop apart from once for under 15 minutes. I just keep the chain tight – it’s not the intensity of Traka but it’s about constantly pedalling and keeping the focus on fuelling. Other than that, I've just been doing normal endurance training, but my sessions or rides tend to be a bit longer. Today, for example, I did a four-and-a-half hour ride with efforts, rather than most people who would probably do two or three-hour rides with efforts.


I’ve changed up my fuelling because I pinpointed the problem I had last year was with jam. I was having it with my breakfast but the density of the sugar in it, my body couldn’t cope with carbs in that form – that's why I was vomiting during the race last year.

My sister was also my soigneur last year and she didn’t fill up one of the hydration vests at the feed because she thought I filled it, so it was empty when I picked it up. I had a couple of hours with no water where I was severely dehydrated, so I won’t make an error like that again. I’ve also realised that I want to be able to eat some whole foods, but I know in the intense bit at the beginning I will only be able to take on gels and bottles – I’ve learnt that through racing. I think I have to try and take on some solid foods after that because otherwise it’s too long to not eat any solids and my stomach was in pieces by the end of last year.

I’m going to have a plan but I need to be able to react to what I want in the moment. I think I'm more aware now that I will crave salt – I didn't have anything salty last time. It’s going to depend on my taste preference and what I can stomach at that moment because it’s also very difficult to swallow. Last year, my mouth was so dry I couldn’t swallow any rice cakes, it would just fall out of my mouth. If I hold back a little bit and monitor my effort this year, I shouldn't be in such a zone where I can't eat solid food.

In the feed zones this year, Amira Mellor who was on Ribble Collective with me last year is going to be there for me. She’s retired from racing now but she did Traka with me in 2023 and came fourth, so she knows exactly what the race is about and is keen to help from the other side.

Bike and kit set-up

I’m riding the Ribble Gravel SL with Parcours Ronde wheels which are all-road but carbon. I’m running Panaracer Gravel King X1 tyres in 40mm with inserts in. I’ve gone narrower than last year when I ran 45mm, but having done a recon of the course – which isn’t particularly technical and since I didn’t have any back pain last year – I thought I might as well run a bit narrower if I’m confident on them. It seems like everyone is wider and wider but I’ve just stuck to what I’m comfortable with and have put inserts in for extra puncture protection.

I’m going to have a top tube bag and a hydration vest which I’ll swap at the feed. I might even try and start without it and just take it at the first feed as I don't really like the feel of riding with a vest.

I’ve also got to think about light set-up, I’ve got Exposure lights and I’m debating whether I need a helmet light and a big light on the bike. If it’s fast enough, I might finish in the daylight rather than the dark, so it’s about thinking if I want to do the whole thing with lights or just picking them up in the last feed.

Race strategy

I’m currently debating my race strategy. Last year’s course was more attritional, so you could play more of a personal pacing game and not burn your matches too easily as everyone was on their own for a lot of the race. This year, because the course is less challenging, the start will be more important as you could potentially be drafting people for the majority of the 360km, so you want to make sure you get in the right group.

I might be wrong, but I have a feeling it's not going to blow up the way that it did last year, in which case I need to think about whether I want to get in a good group early on. I’m not sure I'll be able to catch up with people if they have been surfing on wheels. This is one of the problems with the mass start, because we start with the men then women can hang on to the men’s wheels and it becomes more of a strategy about who can hang on the fastest men’s wheels the longest. I’m also going to make a big effort this year to limit my stops because my total stopping time was 45-minutes last year which is a big chunk of time to lose, instead I’m going to try to keep moving even if I’m just going a bit slower.

Image: Sami Sauri

When the race gets closer, I’m definitely going to get more nervous. Now I’m just enjoying training and I love being here in Girona going to coffee shops. When it comes down to getting close to the race, there’s so many factors you can’t control and you can get into a cycle in your head of worrying about punctures or chain snaps, or going out too hard and blowing up. Generally, though, I’m quite a calm person and I tend to make rational decisions in races which is why I can avoid massive blow ups or anything dramatic to take me out of the race.

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